Global air cargo demand continued to outperform pre-COVID levels, with demand up 12 percent this April, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last night (June 8) reported.
(As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, IATA made comparisons with April 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.)
“Air cargo continues to be the good news story for the air transport sector,” remarked IATA Director General Willie Walsh.
“Some regions are outperforming the global trend, most notably carriers in North America, the Middle East and Africa. Strong air cargo performance, however, is not universal. The recovery for carriers in the Latin American region, for example, is stalled,” he clarified.
The strong performance was led by North American carriers contributing 7.5 percentage points to the 12% growth rate in April.
Airlines in all other regions except for Latin America also supported the growth.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw demand for international air cargo increase 9.2% in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019.
This was a significant improvement in performance compared to the previous month.
International capacity remained constrained in the region, down 18.7% versus April 2019.
As was also the case in March, the region’s airlines reported the highest international load factor at 77.5%.
On the other hand, Middle Eastern carriers posted a 15.3% rise in international cargo volumes in April 2021 versus April 2019.
This was a significant improvement compared to the previous month.
Seasonally adjusted volumes remain on a robust upward trend. International capacity in April was down 17.5% compared to the same month in 2019.
Overall, global air cargo capacity remains 9.7% below pre-COVID-19 levels (April 2019) due to the ongoing grounding of passenger aircraft.
Airlines continue to use dedicated freighters to plug the lack of available belly capacity.
International capacity from dedicated freighters rose 26.2% in April 2021 compared to the same month in 2019, while belly-cargo capacity dropped by 38.5%.
Underlying economic conditions and favourable supply chain dynamics remain supportive for air cargo after global trade rose 4.2% in March and competitiveness against sea shipping has improved.
Air cargo rates have stabilized since reaching a peak in April 2020, while shipping container rates have remain relatively high in comparison.
Meanwhile, longer supplier delivery times as economic activity ramps up make the speed of air cargo an advantage by recovering some of the time lost in the production process.